The Poles Reversed - An Alternate Universe Fiction
-Written by Gale-
Please Note Before Reading - This is a rough draft and is in need of a beta. While I cannot claim the characters (or even the whole of the basic plot here) as mine, I can call the idea mine. I'm not making any money off of this. I'm just having fun, and hoping you will, too. I interpret some of the characters in the Aladdin series as I feel they are, and this includes their counterparts in this alternate universe as well. You are welcome to disagree but please do not write off the entire story just because of that.
- While I cannot claim the characters (or even the whole of the basic plot here) as mine, I can call the idea mine. I'm not making any money off of this. I'm just having fun, and hoping you will, too. I interpret some of the characters in the Aladdin series as I feel they are, and this includes their counterparts in this alternate universe as well. You are welcome to disagree but please do not write off the entire story just because of that.
Chapter #6: An Arrangement
Moonlight poured in from cracks and grates above, casting blue shapes upon the wall ahead. The skitter of animals much smaller than man could be heard, the moans and utterings of still-awake prisoners in other cells a faint echo in the background, phantoms of a half remembered nightmare in which Mozenrath found himself presently sitting. His wrists were bound to the wall above him, making finding a comfortable position difficult to master, as the placing of his arms and the uneven masonry pushed an odd unnatural curve against his spine. Sundown had come many hours ago – too late in the evening, when he was captured, to warrant immediate sentencing probably. Rasoul had simply tossed him in here.
Of course, he also remembered something the Captain of the Guard had said to his companion, quickly revealed, as he had suspected for the latter half of the day, to be none other than Jasmine, crown Princess of Agrabah. Even her commands had not saved him, as Rasoul quickly made clear.
"My orders come from Jafar," he had said.
Mozenrath had come to realize, with a sinking feeling that had not left him since, that perhaps he should have been more careful of his words with the Grand Vizier. The only thing he could hope for was that his stores had remained undiscovered, in which case he might be able to convince Jafar to let him go in exchange for his silence – after he had whatever it was that he wanted from him.
What did the man want, however, that could be said within earshot of the guard that would surely have to let him in? Mozenrath had a reputation. The minute Jafar commanded someone to open the door for him, there would be curiosity, and discretion had forever been part of their dealings in the past.
The young apothecary sucked in a calming breath. He could talk his way out of this. Jafar would want him to keep quiet, right?
Of course, said the cynical half of his mind, they might not need to speak to you at all. You could be looking at the chopping block well before that old snake sticks his neck out for you.
No, he couldn't think of that. The palace guards had been years without ever managing to get under his skin; he wasn't about to crumble within earshot now.
He thought instead of Jasmine – which only made him a little more anxious, even guilty. She had asked him if he would have saved her, and knowing now that she was the princess only made her request seem all the more sad and desperate. He hoped she understood just how futile it was, that she wasn't so naïve, in spite of everything, to think that he was in any position to help her predicament – or that she, between the two of them, was the one in need of rescuing right now.
It was a shame that somehow the demands of a shrill, entitled royal child could be trumped by the word of an equally shrill, albeit creepy royal vizier. It seemed like she liked him – he wasn't certain why, but if it could have gotten him out of this cell, he would not question it, either.
As it was, it happened that an odd skittering sound above his head caught his attention. Not quite the same sound of rats moving about in the dark, capped with a familiar whistling. He craned his head uncomfortably just to get a good look directly upward, and he felt a shock of…surprise? Relief? To see Abu hanging from the bars of a window, high up.
"Tell me that you brought them," he said a little breathlessly.
Leaps and bounds from ledge to rafter to loosening stone soon landed the monkey on the floor beside him, soon rifling through the pockets of his vest for bits of metal that had always come in handy as lock picks. It had been so long since they had actually needed such a thing, that Mozenrath was glad, at least, to know that the right ones hadn't fallen out over time.
Really, Abu was a much smarter creature than most people credited him.
Soon the manacles had given, and the apothecary could lower his arms and try to shake some feeling back into them. "You may have just saved my life," he uttered. The monkey mumbled something about not mentioning it.
Mozenrath sat forward on his knees to look around, then. The window above was too high for him to reach just by standing. If there were enough stones sticking out of the wall for him to climb, that might have been something. His arms were strong enough. But getting through the bars? Another issue entirely. One thing was certain, however: he needed to escape. It would mean trying to salvage what he could from the shop, if he got away without giving too much notice. Afterward he would have to flee the city. Even if he could elude the guards under normal circumstances, he didn't trust Jafar not to have his ways of hunting him down.
He just didn't think, that after nearly a decade working for a living, making something of himself, he was about to become a street rat all over again.
He winced when the last word came out with a particularly high-pitched squeak when Abu spoke, and he shushed him. "Someone will hear you."
"Someone already has."
That was not Abu. Mozenrath got to his feet quickly at the sight of an advancing shadow, and it did not take him long to realize he was standing in the presence of the very individual that had demanded his arrest.
Jafar looked down his nose at him, the crooked beginnings of a smirk starting to show at the corners of his mouth. "Getting into trouble a late today, aren't we, Mozenrath?"
The boy apothecary wetted his lips, drawing in a slow breath. He had just been caught out of shackles. His monkey was there. Under normal circumstances this would involve whatever repercussions there happened to be for attempted escape.
These were not normal circumstances. Jafar had heard his companion speak – something he had tried his best to avoid in all the years he'd been associated with the man.
"No clever quips tonight, I see, though it would seem your familiar is full of them."
How it was that the man could still be trying to sell him on the notion of learning magic - here, of all places, Mozenrath really did not know. "He's not my familiar."
"No?" Jafar chuckled. "There's no need to be so defensive when I've come to deliver you from death, my boy. Come."
The old magician stepped away from the wall, holding out his cane which emanated with a soft, red light, and in the shadow Mozenrath could see an open passageway. It did not occur to him until that moment that he hadn't heard Jafar come in – the door to the cell hadn't been opened, and he could hear no guards out there now.
Jafar raised an eyebrow. "Unless you would like to await whatever punishment the guards have in store for you. I needn't even ask them to be gentle."
Mozenrath held his stare, stubbornly, and snapped his fingers at Abu – who alighted to his shoulder with ease. Conceding, he finally stepped out, stopping when he wandered out of range of the light, waiting for Jafar to follow and bring it with him. A torch was lit, and he pressed himself against the wall to let the man pass and lead him onward.
"Come. It's time we had a little chat."
Up winding staircases and through hidden corridors – the veins of the very palace – Mozenrath and Abu soon found themselves in what appeared to be a small private library and laboratory. It seemed as though they had been ascending for ages, so despite the lack of windows, they were both quite certain that they must have been somewhere high above the dungeons in which they had begun their journey. But there was something more – the shelves of books, the sinister apparati, the smell of bizarre concoctions that filled the air…if the questionable purchases that Jafar often made from his stores had not been indication enough, there was no denying now that regardless of the man's standing within the kingdom, he was up to a good deal more than simply advising the Sultan.
From atop one of the bookcases, the parrot finally made an appearance.
"Now about your familiar."
"Yes, yes. You said that before. However, you and I both heard him speak. A new development, perhaps?" When the boy wouldn't look at him, the Grand Vizier had what he wanted. "No, I'm certain he's been advancing for quite some time. You've been practicing."
"What?" Mozenrath shook his head. "No. All I do is make potions. I told you that. I'm not interested in pursuing magic."
"Come off it, boy," Jafar hissed. "I'm not an idiot. A wizard's familiar becomes more intelligent the more his potential has been realized." He gestured toward his own companion. "For instance. Iago? Greet our guest."
The bird seemed to actually roll its eyes, and after a sigh, in spite of his diminutive size, the voice that issued from his beak was rather deep and gravelly. "Hey kid, how's it goin?" Not the most eloquent of greetings, but there was a definite dialect and inflection, suggesting perhaps not the deepest of human intelligence but most definitely wit and personality. As Jafar had said, the sign of a wizard that had pushed their magical potential to its absolute limit. He'd known the bird was smarter than it seemed – having caught Jafar silencing him on a number of occasions, and it was for this reason that Rashid had always cautioned him to keep Abu silent in front of other people.
"Yeah, I figured as much," Mozenrath said snidely. "But I'm telling you the truth. I never took lessons and I didn't train him. He's been like that since I found him." He crossed his arms and leaned back against the nearest wall that he was certain wouldn't slide away on him.
Jafar watched him a long moment, eyes narrowed to slits, but with a grunt he turned from him, robes billowing as he strode toward a nearby desk, where there stood an hourglass, with an impressive blue jewel mounted upon it. Mozenrath felt Abu tense on his shoulder and he reached up to catch his tail just to be certain he didn't try to make a move for it. His touch calmed the monkey, whose tail circled around his wrist assuringly.
"Get to the point, Jafar. Why did you have them bring me here?"
"I wanted a word with you about our recent little discussion." Jafar glanced at him. "It was just your misfortune that you happened to have the recently disappeared Princess in your possession."
"I didn't kidnap her," Mozenrath insisted right away. "I found her in the Marketplace and she followed me home." That…really didn't sound any better. "Look, I didn't know who she was; no one outside the palace but the guards could have identified her, and even they had to be told to their faces before they picked up on it!"
The Royal Vizier held up a calming hand to silence him, and his face would have been the picture of magnanimous sympathy if he didn't already resemble an undead snake. "I believe you, and I might have been able to speak for you without arousing suspicion, but it is unfortunate that the guards also happened to search your home after you were arrested."
There was that sinking feeling again. They had to have found his stores. And of course they would have conducted a more thorough search than their usual. They had found the Princess in his company; it provided just cause. Illegal substances on top of kidnapping? Rashid would have been so proud of him.
"What do you want?"
Jafar looked a little surprised at his straightforwardness.
"You wouldn't have brought me up here if there wasn't something you thought I could do for you, and if I don't I know what will happen to me." Mozenrath bit his lip. "So what is it?"
A slow smile that did not reassure him in the least. "I can arrange to get you out of the city, and put you in contact with an…acquaintance of mine, in Getzistan, with considerable financial means for you to settle and make a new life for yourself there. Would this be agreeable?"
Definitely. Which was why he didn't trust it. "…It sounds too good to be true."
"Oh, I'm not giving it to you for free, my boy. It just so happens that I am in possession of a very rare artifact. A key, which opens the way into a cave out in the desert: a cave of wonders – filled with more treasure than even an army could carry."
"There's a catch."
"Naturally. I myself cannot enter it. If what you say about your lack of tutelage is true, then it is possible that you have a natural fount of magical potential. It makes you what the old sages refer to as a diamond in the rough. Those may walk freely within the cave without fear. The deal is: You enter, and fetch for me one single item from its treasures, and the rest of the treasure is yours."
Yeah, this wasn't going to blow up in his face. "Maybe"s and "possibly"s were half good news, half "maybe" and "possible" bad news. He just had to hope that, if this wasn't all one huge trick, Jafar was actually right.
"Or I could return you to the dungeon where I found you."
Mozenrath shared a glance with Abu, who could only shrug.
A small chance was better than none at all.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Author's Note: Well, it took more than a year to get this chapter out, and I am going to try to keep my promise to not take this long EVER AGAIN. Finishing college and Graduate School takes a toll on your schedule! So here you are, a sixth chapter, the first since 2009! And to be certain that I don't take so long to get another up, I assure you I'm already hard at work on the next installment.
If you'd like the next chapter to come quickly, review! Nothing encourages me more than input!